Pandemic blues: Brides reschedule weddings thwarted by coronavirus
Abby Musselman, of Dover Township, knew she was a procrastinator, so she planned her wedding about two years in advance, she said.
If anything, she thought that major life milestones — having a baby and buying a house with fiance Erik Stocker — would hold up her big day.
Instead, it was a global pandemic that got in the way.
Couples hoping to say "I do" have been told to think twice before tying the knot as cases of the coronavirus grow in the U.S.
Confirmed cases reached 4,843 in Pennsylvania as of Tuesday, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines said weddings and other events hosting 50 people or more should be canceled for eight weeks.
After being optimistic until a couple of days ago, Musselman made the call to pull the plug on her May 16 wedding date.
Even if she was given the OK by her Dover Township venue, Lakeview Farms Events, she thought, would the CDC want 200 people gathering in one place?
“Mentally, I feel like people are still going to be questioning it,” she said. “That’s just not the vibe I want for everyone.”
Thomas Davis, who runs York-based DJ Tommy's Entertainment Service & "Retro Show," said all but one of his weddings in April were rescheduled.
"Every one of my couples all the way up to October have been calling me," he said.
That's part of the reason why former wedding planner April Rose, of New Freedom, created the Facebook group "I Do" Pandemic, in an effort to provide solidarity for those getting married in a global crisis.
"I know that while I cannot Liam Neeson throat punch this virus, I can try to spread some joy in the world with what I'm going through and my experience in the wedding world," she wrote in the group's description.
Brides throughout York County are facing decisions to postpone their weddings for others' safety.
Chelsea Harris rescheduled her May 29 wedding at Stone Mill Inn in Hallam to account for health risks, as 15 to 20 members of her fiance's family work in the health care industry.
York Hospital employee Alexandra Sechrist also rescheduled her May wedding to August, since she can't even predict where she'll be needed in a month. Her fiance's brother, who serves in the Army, was just deployed to assist with the pandemic.
“It’s our day, but it wouldn’t be our day without everyone there to share it with us,” she said.
Though it was not ideal, the process of rescheduling was relatively painless for Sechrist, Harris and Musselman. Each had only one vendor that couldn't reschedule so far, and their venues have been flexible.
On the other hand, disc jockey Davis said some vendors are charging fees to reschedule dates.
One of the brides he worked with told him that when none of the DJs from the company she hired were available for her rescheduled date, staff refused to refund her money and tried to charge extra to get another DJ to fill in.
Other couples in York County have had to worry about getting their marriage licenses before the office that issues them was ordered to close as a nonessential business.
Brittany Markel, of Jackson Township, said she and fiance Tyler Kelly got theirs just an hour before the closures were announced.
The York County Register of Wills & Clerk of Orphans’ Court now offers a video conferencing option that allows couples to sign virtually and have the license mailed to them — a first in York County.
Venue owners have also stepped up to help make the rescheduling process as smooth as possible for both the venue and the couple.
“Brides have been more than wonderful to work with,” said Lakeview owner Beth Snyder, of all the reschedulings.
St. Joseph Catholic Church, in Springettsbury Township, agreed to work with Sechrist to move her wedding to Sunday, even though Catholic weddings are typically done on Saturdays, she said.
At York Township venue Wyndridge Farm, sales manager Shayla Button said some of her couples have even compromised by holding small, intimate weddings while they wait for their big celebration down the road.
That was the case for Kelly and Markel, who will have a small ceremony with family at his parents’ home in Hopewell Township, on April 25, and a larger celebration on Sept. 20 at their venue, Harmony Hall in Dauphin County.
"It’s more important to us to get married on the date that we set," Kelly said.
Changing the date also means waiting even longer — a task especially hard for Sechrist and Harris, both of whom have been with their future husbands for eight years.
It's disappointing to get your hopes up when you've planned so long, Musselman said, but she feels lucky because some brides have to move their dates out more than a year.
"In the grand scheme of things, it’s really out of our control," she said.